Category Archives: television

Quest of the Dalek

If you were an organism capable only of hate,

then you might too desire to express

this sole passion with the fervor

of a Dalek exterminating all life forms.

 

Take us all to your asylum,

where you have discovered the beauty of hatred,

the ability to love the will to despise.

Open our eyes to your way of life.

 

“Stop! Stop!

If you do not stop,

we will exterminate you!

Stop, so that we may exterminate you!”

 

Is it true?

Is there nothing more than loathing behind

those blue webcam eyes

that despise every creature that fails to match the master race?

They have graced the screens for generations,

and we have never understood their compassion for hatred.

Perhaps their values might be a culture

even great Doctors can’t extrapolate,

even those Whom they wish to exterminate.

Hannibal: A Season in Review and Contemplation

Hannibal - Season 1NBC’s crime drama Hannibal breaks the mold of crime shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds, building throughout the first season a far more consistent plot than such shows generally do. This makes Hannibal not only a show that dwells on crime (and its dark psychology) but also a drama about the participants: what are the effects of constantly looking at horrific scenes and imagining the lives of serial killers?

For Will Graham, the result turns out to be tragic. He slowly loses his senses, hallucinating and imagining vile, trippy experiences, to the point Will causes his superiors and friends to question whether he, like the men he catches, is a psychopath. Will has a form of empathy that allows him to “feel” and “understand” serial killers, due to his condition (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/hannibal-will_n_3366085.html). During the first few episodes of the season, this helps him assume the role of the serial killer and ultimately catch them, before he goes crazy.

At first, I did not particularly like this feature of his personality, not because the idea was not good but because of its execution. I understand his empathy aiding him to understand psychopaths, but show pushes the boundaries of believability. By viewing a simple murder scene, he not only knows how the killer killed his victims, but why. Often, the why is so very complex that it is implausible he could so rapidly construct a motive (i.e. the angel people).

As the show progresses, however, the show-runners and Hugh Dancy do a better job of showing how the illness

will_graham_by_the_foolish_princess-d66ma0b

is affecting him negatively. Not only does it destroy his relationship with his coworkers and possible lover, but it also corrupts his sanity. He becomes conflicted because though he wants to continue to help people (he adopts a fatherly role for Abigail, the daughter of the Minnesota Shreik), he also realizes he might be traumatized by the gory sights he sees.

The level of gore and violence in Hannibal is at times over-the-top, like when the FBI find a tower of putrefying bodies stacked and strapped atop each other at the beach. Or when girls are found impaled on elk antlers. Or… any other death in the entire series. The writers are seriously, but impressively demented for creating some of this material, and the “disgusting way to die with psychologically unique killer” a week schtick, while intriguing, may be difficult to keep up. By season’s end, the show-runner’s give up, giving instead screen time for the characters to ultimately come to terms with their fates.

Whose fate I find most interesting is that of Hannibal (which I’ll discuss later on below). Mad Mikkelson portrays Hannibal in an amusing, cool way, a departure from Anthony Hopkin’s unhinged menace. While I have always loved Silence of the Lambs, Mikkelson convinced me Hannibal Lector could be far more menacing when not slurping at Clarice Starling or carving off men’s faces—he could be just as menacing having dinner with Laurence Fishbourne or making sexy eyes at his therapist (Gillian Anderson).

images (16)                He often waxes poetically about psychologically and coldly manipulates the other players in this drama. He strikes a compelling relationship with Will, which he claims is a friendship, but each step he takes to “aid” Will ultimately leads to Graham’s demise. In fact, Hannibal takes  a curious pleasure in manipulation, and when confronted about his actions (several murders and cover-ups), he simply states he was “curious to see what would happen.” But Mikkelson’s Lector, unlike Hopkin’s, is someone capable of receiving sympathy.

At some point, he know Lector will betray Will, which makes their relationship nefarious. In the books, Will confronts Lector and ends up with his face cut to shreds. This creates a palpable tension for the entire season. When next will Lector kill and when will Will Graham, a man capable of understanding serial killers, finally realize his friend and psychologist is the serial killer he’s been looking for. [SPOILER] Furthermore, Lector sets up Will to take the ultimate fall for his murders in a genius, long-term plan that convinces Will, at first, he might be guilty, until Will then realizes the truth about Lector. “I see you,” he says in the finale when they return to the murder scene of Abigail Hobbes. [END SPOILER].

But Hannibal wants Will to become the Chesapeake Ripper (Hannibal’s media moniker) because he wants to be understood. The show is entirely about the need to be understood. Garret Jacob Hobbes, the first murderer, longs to share his passion for skinning and eating girls with his impressionable daughter. Another killer, a doctor, uses living human bodies as fertilizer because he felt a better connection to his victims as mushrooms.

Will Graham possesses the ability to empathize with and understand these people, and in the end that’s what Lector wants to—to be understood. Unlike Hopkin’s Lector, who would eat a census taker with chianti and fava beans, Mikkelson’s Hannibal Lector begs to be explicated, to be sympathized with, to be explained. He may not understand his own psychopathic tendencies, and he may not even understand why he manipulates the only man he might care about into a terrible position and madness.

[SPOILERS ABOUT THE FINALE]

 

Of course, in the end, this presumption is flipped. Perhaps Lector only took the case because he recognized Graham’s unstable condition, understood the opportunity to exploit it. By becoming his psychiatrist, he could manipulate Will into taking the fall for all of his murders and then make Will believe so deeply he was mad, that perhaps Will would adopt the shrine of Chesapeake Ripper. Instead, Will outsmarts Hannibal and sees through his plan.

By then, though, Hannibal has already convinced Graham’s friends and colleagues of his guilt, even Jack Crawford who before did not question Graham’s loyalty. The ending sets up an interesting dynamic for next season. Will Graham in prison while Hannibal Lector remains free. Though Will understands Lector now as a monster, he is powerless to stop his further killings. Also, the feud has become personal after Lector’s betrayal. Next season will likely see Will attempting to prove his innocence and Hannibal’s guilt while Hannibal continues to cover his tracks. By season’s end, however, let’s hope the two end up on each others’ side of the prison bars.

[END OF SPOILERS. READ ON!]

Overall, the series is dark and somber, taking itself incredibly serious with an armada of symbols and overwrought motifs (that elk). It’s twisted, gory, and horrific, much like the human mind, and as far as drama goes, it is better and more subtle than many other shows on television. I hope the show-runners can continue the intense tension into following seasons, because above all, Hannibal is different.

(Side-notes)

1.) Didn’t all of the food look absolutely delicious? It makes one ALMOST want to become a cannibal. Almost. If you’d like the non-human recipes for the food cooked on the show, you can find them here: http://janicepoonart.blogspot.com/

2.) The elk motif did not actually make me annoyed. I thought it was a useful way of showing Graham’s madness and darkness, which we in the end see was a direct result of Hannibal Lector. Lector IS the dark and mad part of Will’s brain, and he does not go insane until Lector begins toying with his fragile state of mind.

3.) Seriously, the cinematography.

4.) My favorite non-main character was Abigail Hobbes, played with a mix of startled innocence and haughty malice by Kacey Rohl.

images (17)

5.) When Will Graham first started hallucinating, I rolled my eyes, but the direction they took this plot thread by season end made all the sweating and time loss and strange dreams worth it.

6.) Laurence Fishbourne was alright. Mostly annoying, to be honest, but he was alright.

A Brief Message on Voting

When voting for Gary Johnson, remember to not accidentally write “Gay Johnson” as a write-in. Especially do not accidentally misspell his name while Googling him, because while you may have been searching for his Libertarian policies, what you’ll get instead might be unpleasant.

Likewise, when spelling Barack Obama’s name, avoid typing “Osama” as so many people have. It will leave you with your head cocked to the side, perplexed at why suddenly the Democratic Party has become a terrorist organization.

Lastly, do not type Mitt Romney’s name into Google as “Mitt Romney” on the likely chance you’ll end up on his website, equally disheartened.

Despite the misspellings and misinterpretations of names, policies, and theoretical comings of End Times, go out and vote today.

Life On Earth-616: Do the Time Warp

Neil Gaiman. Time Travel. The Marvel Canon. Mix these fine ingredients and you should get something amazing right?

Well, what you do get is Marvel 1602 which is fun, energetic, enjoyable, and creative. It does no quite blow you away like you keep expecting it to, like you might wish after reading the first issue, but nevertheless, it’s a breezy, adventurous comic book read.

More than anything, the limited comic series is an interesting premise on many levels. What happens when you transport all your favorite super heroes to Elizabethan times? The Spanish Inquisition seeks to burn and torture heretics and witches. Those with angel wings, who can control weather, who are cosmic magicians, who are beast-men– those people might just be tied to a stake and burned. At the same time, King James of Scotland is carefully watching the throne as Queen Elizabeth dies.

Our heroes, clad in olden clothes and olden times (Sir Nicholas Fury, Peter Parquagh, and the gang) must face a new corrupt monarchy, an evil, rich count (Count Von Doom!), a time traveling Captain/Native American impersonator, The Spanish Inquisition (lead by a man readers will recognize halfway through the book), and oh– the imminent destruction of not only Earth but every world ever.

Because of the time-altering, strange events in this continuity, the world becomes 313 rather than 616, a separate universe. Whenever Marvel wants to open up a new plot line with the same characters, they generally just unfold a new world/dimension. Because someone traveled back in time, they have to reverse events to their proper order. At the end, however, things continue in this world for some reason, because there’s a new dimension?? Or something?? Anyways, it allows for a sequel which I may or may not read. That will depend on the reviews I read.

I read this in a course of two days, both at night and by the pool. It’s that sort of comic book, not exactly the dark, gritty stuff of Watchmen, but the fun heroes-to-the-rescue bravado with a historical twist.

The most fun in this book is discovering who is who, which current character corresponds with other Marvel characters. Some are simple like Dr. Strange, but others you must endure the entire story before discovering their identity. If you’re looking for a quick, light read that gives a fresh feel to characters you already love, give this a try.

(I might just pick up the sequel after discovering Iron Man features in it. Hm…)

Just for the record, Gaiman did a killer job with Daredevil’s character. Loved both his swagger and interpretation. This, I think, may have been a call-out to Shakespeare’s Fieste in Twelfth Night just as Jane Gray’s cross-dressing also paid tribute to Shakespeare.

I know also I said at the beginning I wasn’t blown away by the book, but I did enjoy it immensely. Gaiman did a good job of balancing suspense with cameos and fanboy winks.

Modern Day Horror An Impossibility?

I watched The Woman in Black for the second time last night and came under the impression that every horror movie ever made should take place in the 1800s, perhaps the early 1900s. Once the characters get technology, all the mystery is gone.

So you think there might be a poltergeist in your house? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that. The wonderful new spectral locator app on your IPhone will indicate whether or not paranormal activity is going on within your home. When you find out a ghost is haunting your attic, sell your house and move away!

How lame would that be, though, if through some technology we could trace ghosts, kill vampires, and reverse every killer zombie plague? Thanks a lot, Richard Matheson!

Would  The Ring not lose a lot of its scare value if someone received a tweet, “U will die in 7 days #Evilcurse.” Then, Samara comes climbing through your IPad as you’re trying to watch 30 Rock on Hulu.

My point is, with as many technological advances as we have today, the things that once were scary have been demystified. We’re no

longer superstitious of demons possessing people with epileptic seizures. Not every crow means death. But back in better, less complicated times, true horror existed in uncertainty. These days, we are too certain that we know everything. Not that we can ever truly know anything.

Think of Plato’s wall, and what doubt it casts on the shadow of reality being truly reality, a real world and not one of shadows. Maybe this idea itself, the sheer notion that perhaps we paragons of technology don’t know EVERYTHING, perhaps that is today’s new horror. No more ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. Only uncertainty. Only a true ignorance where once we presumed was vast, concrete knowledge. Every day, we learn that things we absolutely knew without a doubt were never in fact true.

Is this merely more reason to lament the days when we were certain about our own uncertainty, not so mixed up about it?

What we need is more ghosts and haunted houses. Call me cliche, but I love those stories. In fact, check out this Litreactor article on Haunted Houses.

What are your thoughts? What’s the last good horror movie you’ve seen/horror book you’ve read set in modern day? Or do you prefer to kick it old school?

Game of Thrones, Season 2: Why I’m Stoked

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until this episode ends. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. Except for the dying part, because I doubt I’ll die in the hour it takes to watch Game of Thrones on HBO. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the most intense show ever, for this Sunday night and all the Sunday nights to come.

Why am I stoked for Game of Thrones?

If you have reading this blog for any length of time, you have probably noticed that George R.R. Martin’s series Song of Ice and Fire has caused me to develop a quick love of fantasy, specifically his fantasy. After watching the first season of Game of Thrones on HBO, I tore through the series like a Dothraki arakh through a man’s gut. At the moment, I am beginning the fifth book. So far, it is vying for favorite status.

My current favorite of his series is book 2 entitled Clash of Kings. With five different kings in Westeros, war ensues, Lannister against Stark, brother against brother, ward against lord. The story line is far more engaging for this reason, not that series one was uninteresting. Only that season two will include more fighting and wars. Particularly exciting is the Battle of Blackwater. I am quite ready to see Tyrion Lannister in battle again, though not be bumped on the head during the first minute.

Speaking of Tyrion, viewers will see much more of him this coming season. While his adventures on the Wall and as Catelyn’s captive are certainly interesting, he begins controlling much more in the second book because he has become Hand of the King. His movements during this book become very important to the final outcome.

Also, a key player in the upcoming series is Theon Greyjoy, a minor character in the first series. He will travel to the Iron Islands of his birth to confront his fearsome father Balon, his rash sister Asha, and his devoted uncle Aeron. Except that Asha will be named Yara in the upcoming season and played by Gemma Whelan.

There are many new key players to watch including Brienne of Tarth, Melisandre, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, and Ygritte the wilding. But who these characters are and their significance will be explained soon, quite soon, come April 1st. Look at pictures here!

Another new character I’m excited to see portrayed is Davos Seaworth, who turned out to be one of my favorite characters. His origin and general dedication really touch me, somehow. He will be played by Liam Cunningham who I’ve heard is quite a skilled actor.

Concerning casting, there is one aspect that excited me much. Two veterans from the British drama Skins have been cast. One we’ve seen in Season One as Robert Baratheon’s bastard Gendry, who also plays a much larger role in Season Two. Joe Dempsie plays Chris, a directionless screwup, on Skins, while anorexic, half-psycho Cassie (Hannah Murray) will be playing Gilly, a pregnant wilding who has sex with a crow (metaphorically!) and her own father (unfortunately, not so metaphorically).

In the casting alone, there is much to be excited about. The stories we will see unfold are quite epic, I promise. Much blood, I promise. Much ringing steel, I promise. Some dragons, those too. Treachery and death and love, all those, they are coming. That this show will be fantastic, that is as sure as winter itself. Winter is coming, but perhaps it’s not such a bad thing for us.